Case Study of Architect Ma Yansong

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Theories of Architecture & Urbanism

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    1. Project Description
    2. Architect’s Background
    3. Architect’s Firm Background
  1. Project Analysis
    1. Summary and Background of Hong Luo Clubhouse
    2. 3 Factors
      1. Position and Climate
      3. Axis
    3. External Contributing Factors
  1. Conclusion
  1. Reference
  1. Introduction

1.1 Project Description

The aim and purpose of this project is to analyze, understand, and convey the thoughts of the architect through our perspective and understanding from one of his/her project. Each individual element will be broken down and studied upon with the relevant contributing factor. Furthermore, the exploration of relationship between architecture, cultural and social context will be highlighted through various diagrams and annotations.

1.2 Architect’s Background

Ma Yansong was born in Beijing, China. He spent most of his younger years playing with kids of his neighborhood; in narrow streets and alleyways. At night, he would return to his humble foursquare house, having dinner with his family. Ma Yansong said that he gained plenty of experience by playing on the trees and small tunnel. He also believed that he felt free and safe within the neighborhoods. His first inspiration came from looking at Chang’an Avenue, where he compares it to his own neighborhood, a big difference indeed. Those tall and majestic buildings, it was as if there was a whole new world out there. To him, that was the first impression about what the city looks like from his humble viewpoint.

Ma Yansong is currently recognized as an important voice in a new generation of architects. He is also the first Chinese architect who had won the overseas landmark-building project. Graduating with a degree from the Beijing Institute of Civil Engineering and Architecture, he continued his post graduate program at Yale University, where he had received his master’s degree in 2001. In addition, he received the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Scholarship for Advanced Architecture Research in 2001, and was awarded the 2006 “Young Architects Award” by the Architectural League of New York. From all his hard work, he earned the chance to work for a famous Iraqi-British architect, Zaha Hadid in London and Eisenman Architects in New York prior to starting his own firm in 2004, called MAD Architects.

1.3 Architect’s Firm Background

Ma Yansong began his career by having the opportunity to work in Zaha Hadid’s office in London. To him, Zaha Hadid was an avid mentor and superior. Finally, after gaining enough experience throughout 3 years of working with Zaha hadid, he started his own firm called MAD Architects.

The firm started humbly, doing projects for the sake of entering competitions and contests. They had minimal life projects and they required more recognition from the public. Thus, the competitions were one of the only methods to gain the needed attention. However, despite all their hard work, they had only won 1 of the competition, which was branded The Absolute Towers. Having said that, that 1 competition was all they need to grow from then till now.

The Absolute Towers was a project in Toronto, Canada. Being the first architect to have his work won, built and completed out of China, he made a name for himself. The first international Chinese architect (China).

Up till today, MAD Architects has completed 6 projects with 7 under construction. They also have 2 in its design stage and 7 in its proposal stage. The firm also has a total of 6 staff, including himself. The firm has also won numerous awards and recognition from various places including the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Beijng Design Week, International Property Award and many others.

  1. Project Analysis

2.1 Summary and Background of Hong Luo Clubhouse

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Figure 2.1 Hong Luo Clubhouse

Hong Luo Villa district is a three-phased project. Each of the three phases are allocated along the Hong Luo Lake, reflecting the amazing views of the mountain sitting right behind it. Constructed in the year 2006. The Hong Luo Clubhouse has a total of 189.7 square meters interior space. The entire construction area is estimated to be at least 487 square meters.

The Hong Luo Clubhosue was designed to float on the lake, in the center of the bungalows layout, shaped like a “U”. The reason being is mainly due to 3 factors; the positioning & climate, views and axis.

2.2 3 Factors

2.2.1 Positioning & Climate

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Figure 2.2.1 Location of Hong Luo Clubhouse within context

First and foremost, one of the most important factor will be the location of the building. (Figure 2.2.1) shows the location of the Hong Luo Clubhouse in relation to the surrounding bungalows. Maroon indicates the actual building and the 2 path highlighted in red represents the extension timber bridge.

One of the key aspects of placing the Hong Luo Clubhouse on that site is to frame the superb view of the mountain up north, as seen in (Figure Residence of Hong Luo Villas now have a guide on where to place their attention to whenever they walk or drive pass the clubhouse. It acts as a central node for both framing the mountains and an indication of an upper-class location.

Furthermore, having the building place horizontally up-north, both the West and East entrance of the timber bridge receive sufficient natural lighting. Even the swimming pool and the submerged walkway are relatively bright. This can be seen in (Figure 2.1).

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Figure The framing of mountains up-north

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Figure Indoor & Outdoor spaces including the swimming pool

The darker orange indicates the internal part of the building while the brighter orange indicates the external, including the pool. In the morning, the pool will be shaded at least 30-40% of the total floor area. This gives a comfortable morning swim for those who do not wish to face the bright sunlight. However, for those who do, there is the balance of 60-70% which allows users to take a dip and relax under the sun. Furthermore, since the West and East timber bridge entrance is placed in a linear form, regardless what the time is, there will always be sufficient lighting.


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Figure 2.2.2 Diagram indicating views and the material affecting it

Hong Luo Clubhouse has 3 viewing nodes; the pool, north, and south Side. The primary pool view will indefinitely be in the pool, around the edge of it. The pool, which has a wide 360 degree viewing angle, can see the best of everything. Whether it is the drive-way to the villas, the mountains or even inside the clubhouse. Separated by a timber deck, the rectangular pool acts as an added attraction simply because it is submerged with the lake, elevating only a little for its wall to separate the water from the lake.

The idea of a submerged pool allow users to feel as if they are swimming in a lake. Instead of the conventional pool, which is basically floor and water, the Hong Luo Clubhouse exudes a sense of freedom and safety. Much like how he felt when he was a child.

The primary internal view will be facing up-north, towards the glorious mountains and the lake. Whether internally or externally, users can enjoy the amazing view due to the material used; glass. Ceiling height glass panels are used to draw a line between the interior and exterior but not so much as to obstruct the breathless view of nature.

The secondary internal view will be facing down-south, towards the villas and bungalows of Hong Luo. Residence driving or walking back home can see exactly what is happening in the clubhouse even from a shore. They can decide whether to enter the clubhouse or return straight home because there are too many people there. Vice versa, users inside the clubhouse can also view towards the main road leading to their homes. Who is coming in? What is happening? Why are there fire trucks? etc. It gives the residence a sense of safety and belonging. To know that whenever they need, they can look back at their villas and see that everything is alright. The sense of security, the sense of home and the sense of place.

2.2.3 Axis

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Diagram 2.2.3 Main and sub-entrance of Hong Luo Clubhouse

Axis, as in the entrances and exits of a building. The entrance highlighted in red represents the main and submerged route while the orange represents the secondary or sub-entrance timber bridge that connects from the East to West sector of the area.

Another one of the main attractions of this building will be the submerged entrance, which is highlighted in red. Located south of the building, facing the villas and bungalows. Being wider and bolder in shape, it matches the shape and form of the building.

Furthermore, it acts as a node for being the main entrance as well. The submerged walkway has a similar idea with the swimming pool. The idea is to allow users to feel as if they are walking on water. Not as much as to literally walking on water, but simply a feeling and experience of walking alongside with it. Having whitish marble tile cladding as the core material of the walkway, it creates an identity of its own without overpowering the building but complementing it instead. After all, the tone of the tiles and building looked rather similar from afar.

The secondary or sub-entrance of the building is located north of the building, ranging from the East to West sector of the estate. It works simply as an additional entrance to the building with 1 benefiting factor, which is the amazing view. Users can slowly embrace the beauty of nature as they stride at calming pace towards the building, having their spirits uplifted by the glory of those mountains, right in front of them.

2.3 External Contributing Factors

Figure 2.3.1 East Elevation

Figure 2.3.2 West Elevation

Figure 2.3.3 South Elevation

Figure 2.3.4 North Elevation

One of the main external contributing factor will be the materials used for this project. Two of the main materials are concrete and glass. As seen from (Figure 2.3.1) to (Figure 2.3.4), both glass and concrete dominates the building equally.

The use of both these materials give a sense of simplicity and elegance. A very minimalistic design indeed. Glass as the façade with part of the roof curving in, complementing and improving the aesthetical quality of the building.

Another external contributing factor will be the shape and form of the building. From (Figure 2.3.4), one can see that the roof on is higher on one side. This is perhaps to follow the flow of the mountains behind it. (Figure 2.3.5)

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Figure 2.3.5 Lines indicating the flow of the building

From (Figure 2.3.5), the red lines indicates the flow of the mountain from the west sector while the blue from the east. The green lines indicate the horizontal balance between the building and the background, which is the mountains behind. These lines could simply indicate the ideas of the mountain being placed architecturally on the ground, for people to enjoy.

Last but not least, simple red and orange colored furniture are used to light up the mood and to place a reasonable impact of contrast within such a pure and white building.

  1. Conclusion

In conclusion, Ma Yansong has designed an amazing clubhouse for the Hong Luo Residence. Not only is it simple and elegant, it is pretty sophisticated as well. From the curves to the material and to the submerged pathways. Each of these individual elements works harmoniously together as one, creating a sense of place for the users to be in.

Furthermore, the context of which the building is located is mesmerizing as well. The idea of framing and locking the mountains behind was simply brilliant. The apparent sense of proportion between the roof, slab and submerged pathway and pool creates a dynamic and exciting journey through the building.

All and all, Ma Yansong’s past experience, both during his childhood and during his working years with Zaha Hadid has paid off. Of course, there is no end to learning as he continues to strive further and better with architecture.


Name: Ma Yansong

D.O.B: 1975 (39 years old)

P.O.B: China

Company: MAD Architects

Education: Beijing Institute of Civil Engineering & Architecture (Bachelor), Yale University (Masters)

Ma Yansong was born and raised in China. Graduating with a degree from the Beijing Institute of Civil Engineering and Architecture and completing his masters in Yale University, he is the first Chinese architect to be renowned internationally. He has worked in Zaha Hadid’s office for 3 years before starting his own architecture firm called MAD Architects. He has won numerous awards including the 2006 “Young Architects Award” and the “International Property Award”. He has a total of 6 completed projects, including his famous Absolute Towers which is the first competition he won overseas, Toronto, Canada.

  1. References